Friday, December 2, 2022

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: September 29, 2398

That proves it. Meredarchos and Erlendr are sharing a body, they can transfer themselves to anyone they choose, and the whole thing with taking Trina’s body was just a ruse to get them to look for the wrong face. The danger here is that, regardless of what body they’re possessing at the moment, they can psychically infect others. Either their victims become so loyal to them that they’re willing to kill their own friends, or the process instills such hatred in them that they’re willing to kill their own friends. Either result ends the same, and they don’t know how to stop it. Arcadia was able to keep them out of her head, as well as Vearden’s, but she may not be able to scale that to the entire team, let alone everyone in the world. Right now, the evil duo feels like an unstoppable force, and while nowhere is safe, some places may be safer than others.
“Are you sure?” Leona asks. She came back early from her business trip at the factory in Oberlin, Ohio to deal with all this.
“Positive,” Arcadia answers. “He’s...a shell.”
Heath is kind of like a baby, except that he doesn’t cry, and he has the motor functions of an adult with absolutely no motivation. If someone turns his head to the left, he just leaves it there. If they stick his hands up in the air, he leaves them there too. He can be physically manipulated like a puppet with invisible strings. He can’t talk, or express needs and wants. He can’t feed himself, and he soils his pants when the opportunity comes up. Fortunately, he’s showing signs of being able to relearn all of these things. He’s mimicked basic sounds, and Marie is hopeful that he will one day speak again. He won’t really be Heath, though. He’s just a doll who looks exactly like her husband did, who is now dead. Any emotional attachment she holds for this individual is irrational and human. He can’t reciprocate, at least not yet.
“We don’t have the resources to protect him,” Leona points out, “nor the qualifications.”
“What about our joint therapist?” Marie asks. She’s always teary-eyed now, but keeping it together.
“She’s not qualified to help someone like this with something like this,” Leona explains.
“But surely she knows someone. He doesn’t need neurological help, the tools are all there in his head. He just needs...a parent. I can help partially, but I really need the guidance of someone who understands development.”
“Okay, I can try to speak with Magnus Sharpe,” Leona agrees.
“No, I know her the best,” Marie says. “I’ll speak with her. I just need someone to help Heath get into bed for a nap.”
“I can do that,” Arcadia volunteers. She frowns when Marie gives her a look. “Forget what you remember of me, or what you’ve been told. I’m not that person anymore. I want to help. He and I grew close while we were living together at the condo. Let me do this.”
Marie is hesitant, but gives in. Heath needs constant supervision, and since she can’t be with him all the time, she’ll have to learn to trust others to pitch in. She steps away to make the call, expecting to have to speak to a number of people regarding her husband’s unique condition.
Mateo nods at her respectfully as he’s entering the apartment. He sees Arcadia ushering Heath into the bedroom. “What can I do?” he asks his wife.
Leona has been thinking about that. “You developed rapport with the founder of Palmeria, correct?”
“Keaton Palmer, yes, I did. He’s quite friendly. He’s going to help us leave this reality when his ride shows up in five months.”
“Even if it overrides that favor, I need you to ask him for a new one.”
“What’s that?”
Leona releases a hologram from her watch, showing a satellite view of the islands. “I had Ramses look into why you weren’t able to teleport within the borders of the island. Preliminary data suggests a powerful barrier protecting the area. I wondered how he was able to prevent invasion without any security to speak of. Why, even a couple of kids wanting to pull a prank might try to boat up there and teepee the woods. They can’t. Ramses found stories of people trying. They all wake up on this side of the border, feeling terribly sick, and with no memory of what happened to them. Barely any time has passed. This may be our best defense against Meredarchos, and his future legions. I think he has to be in proximity to get into your head.”
“You want me to ask Palmer how he built his barrier?”
“More than that, I want you to ask if he would be willing to accept some refugees. We need to protect our family. We need to protect Heath and Marie, and the kids. Ram and I can construct our own barrier of some kind if we need to, but this would still be a warzone. Palmeria is small, remote, and inconsequential.”
“You don’t need to sell me on it, love. I got you.” Mateo disappears.
Arcadia steps out of the bedroom and shuts the door quietly. “I think he understood me when I told him to sleep. He closed his eyelids on his own upon hearing the words. He’s picking up skills quickly.”
“Good. I know that Marie appreciates the help, and I appreciate you wanting to help us at all. And I think we both know that playing capacity nurse doesn’t exactly make use of your own skills, does it?”
Arcadia frowns. “What do you mean by that?”
“Kivi is leaving us. She’s leaving the business, and staying in the field. She may not know yet, but she’s taking her team leader up on an offer to work full time for SD6.”
“Okay...” Arcadia isn’t sure why she needs to know any of this.
“I have a lot of pull there, so while I haven’t actually spoken to anyone about it, I’m certain that I can get you assigned to the team as well.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Kivi can find Meredarchos and Erlendr. You can combat their psychic power.”
Arcadia wants to argue, but she knows she’s in no position to do so. “Okay.”
“Before you leave for that, however, I need you to do something else,” Leona begins, “if you’re even capable of it.”
“I’ll try, whatever it is.”
“What you did for Vearden, when you blocked psychic energy from getting into his head, or whatever it is. Is that permanent, or has his mental wall fallen since then?”
“I made it permanent once I realized the full extent of the threat. I suppose you want me to do the same for everyone else?”
“I like the way you think,” Leona says.

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